5 steps to making fights with your partner work for, not against, you.
1. Consider your most recent argument. At what point did you sense yourself getting "hooked"—caught up in emotions that might have felt very familiar? What was the situation? What did your partner say or do that sent you over the edge?
2. Now try to remember the first argument you had in this relationship. (Because it was a milestone, most couples can remember. If you can't, pick any early argument. And if you're one of those couples who "never" argue, then work with your first disappointment.) Without focusing on the surface issues, look for the pattern. Do you see any similarities in the feelings that came up?
3. Realize that your recurrent argument is telling you something about your deep past. It may take a while to tap into this "something." Be patient. Stay with the feelings. Write in your journal. Talk to close friends or family members. Look at old photographs. Before going to bed at night, wish for a revealing dream.
4. When you've discovered your story beneath the story, discuss it with your partner. Then listen to his story. Have compassion for each other. You both seek relief from old hurts. You both desire love and understanding.
5. The next time an argument begins, try to deal with the core issue. The more you practice, the easier it gets. As you heal from the past, there's less fuel for the fire, and the rewards come more and more quickly.
The fight that can save your marriage
From the September 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!